Drought sparks fire bans | AspenTimes.com

Drought sparks fire bans

Drought conditions throughout Colorado spurred public land managers and sheriffs throughout counties in western Colorado to announce fire restrictions Thursday.

Effective noon today, the U.S. Forest Service is banning fires outside of developed campgrounds in the White River National Forest. The restriction will be in place in the national forest within Pitkin, Eagle, Garfield, Gunnison, Mesa and Summit counties.

“We are working closely with those counties that have imposed similar restrictions,” said Forest Service spokeswoman Sue Froeschle.

Many of the counties, including Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield, have also restricted open burning on all lands. Fire restrictions were also imposed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The Forest Service restrictions are targeted at building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, charcoal broiler or a coal or wood stove except in a Forest Service developed camp or picnic ground.

The use of petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns or heating devices is allowed elsewhere, providing such devices meet the fire underwriters specifications for safety.

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Smoking is only allowed within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material.

Violations of the restrictions are punishable by a fine and could lead to prison. “More importantly, no one wants to be responsible for a wildfire,” Froeschle said.

Eagle County Sheriff A.J. Johnson said the restrictions were needed due to the fire danger being high to extreme in all areas of the county.

“Due to the unseasonably warm and dry weather patterns, all fire protection agencies are supporting the decision to place restrictions in effect for all of Eagle County,” said a sheriff’s office press release.

A press release issued by the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office said the moisture content within trees, grasses and brush has plummeted this spring.

“The fire restrictions may be lifted but only after a prolonged and significant change in our weather pattern,” the press release said.

The public agencies stressed that private fireworks are also included in the ban.

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